There was an inevitability about it that was all too apparent to supporters when the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ draw was made last December. As soon as England and Germany came out in neighbouring groups, Lennie of London and Bernd of Berlin spoke for all their countrymen when they chorused: "We'll be facing each other once again".

The two rival nations who share so much history over and beyond what happens on the football field, have provided some of the most dramatic action in the 80 years of the FIFA World Cup. They played out an epic Final in 1966 and four years later locked hours again for a quarter-final clash that almost rivalled it for sheer theatre and gripping excitement. Then in 1990 they reprised it all once more in a semi-final that again went the full 120-minute duration before penalties were required to decide the winner.

In Bloemfontein on Sunday afternoon the familiar foes come face to face for the fifth time in a FIFA World Cup, Germany as winners of Group D and England as runners-up in Group C. If USA had not scored their injury-time winner against Algeria then England v Germany would not have taken place. But you just knew the footballing fates were conspiring again to ensure it did.

Their first FIFA World Cup meeting will go down as one of the greatest Finals of all time. It was 30 July 1966 and the tournament held in England for the first and only time, had reached its conclusion with the two long-standing enemies lining up on opposite sides of the halfway line.

A Wembley rollercoaster
What a match was about to unravel over 120 minutes. What a rollercoaster the two sets of supporters were subjected to as Germany took an early lead through Helmut Haller before England - and in particular Geoff Hurst - began to assert themselves. With Martin Peters adding a second-half goal to Hurst's equaliser, Wembley believed the host nation was about to rule the world. Not so easily. With just a minute remaining Wolfgang Weber scored following a free-kick and English hearts sank. In extra time came one of the biggerst controversies since the competition's origins in 1930 as Geoff Hurst turned to send in a shot that cannoned off the underside of the bar and crashed down onto the ground.

Was it a goal? Englishmen insist to this day that the ball bounced over the line. The Germans will never be convinced that an injustice wasn't perpetrated on them by referee Gottfried Dienst as he signalled the goal on the advice of his Azerbaijani linesman, Tofik Bakhramov.

With the 120 minutes almost up, England's golden boy and captain, the late Bobby Moore, launched a long ball from deep. Hurst has since said that his only aim was to send the ball high over the bar and into the crowd to eat up vital seconds. Instead the ball thundered into the net to complete his hat-trick - the first and, still, only one in a FIFA World Cup Final, and tie-up a 4-2 victory.

Four years later the teams met at Mexico 1970 at the quarter-final stage. Because of what happened four years previously, it was a fixture that aroused great anticipation although no one expected it to be anywhere near as dramatic. But in its own way it proved just as eventful as England forged a 2-0 lead through Alan Mullery and Peters. On a steaming hot afternoon in Leon and with only 41 minutes remaining, it didn't seem possible that West Germany could come back.

Mueller seals comeback win
But England had a replacement goalkeeper in Peter Bonetti - Gordon Banks having succumbed to illness overnight - and they sensed the game hadn't yet got away from them. Not with Gerd Mueller in their ranks and it was he who rounded off a famous victory with the winning goal in extra time after Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler had brought the scores level.

Before their epic third encounter 20 years later, the nations also faced each other in the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. In those days there was a second group stage and a largely forgettable affair ended 0-0. England bowed out after the three games while West Germany progressed to the Final where they lost 3-1 to Italy.

The 1990 meeting came in the semi-final and was played in Turin. It is remembered by Englishmen as much for Paul Gascoigne's tears - when their talismanic midfielder realised a booking would keep him out of the Final if they won - as much as the result which again went West Germany's way after it came down to a penalty shoot-out. The Germans - as they seemingly always do - scored with all their attempts whereas England's fall-guys were Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle. This after Andreas Brehme had shot Franz Beckenbauer's team ahead - the coach having played in both of the 1966 and 1970 games - before Gary Lineker equalised with ten minutes remaining.

Is it too much to ask that South Africa 2010 can add to the roster of wonderful Germany-England skirmishes? History suggests that another game that which will seize the imagination and nag away at the nerve-ends is set to be played out in the Free State Stadium.